High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Dr Kathryn Basford

Medically reviewed by

Dr Kathryn Basford

Last reviewed: 10 Jun 2019

Hypertension and its symptoms

Man sat on the arm of a chair researching the symptoms of high blood pressure on his laptop

Key takeaways

  • High blood pressure happens when your arteries have hardened, causing them to remain relatively narrow

  • Symptoms of hypertension are uncommon but can include, vision problems, tiredness, and headache

  • An estimated 7 in 10 people in Britain have increased blood pressure and the condition increasingly affects younger people

Hypertension does not always cause symptoms, which is why the condition often goes unnoticed. However, there are some signs and symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension) to watch out for.

Often, people do not recognise the signs of high blood pressure until they have a stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure is known to be a silent disease that often does not produce obvious symptoms. Usually it’s only picked up during routine checkups with your doctor. It’s recommended that you regularly check your blood pressure to make sure you spot a dangerous increase early on.

There are a few symptoms that people with high blood pressure can get, though. These include: lightheadedness,headaches, tiredness, and problems with your vision.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and are already taking treatment, you can talk about the treatments ZAVA offers with one of our doctors online.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Let’s start with a bit of information on blood pressure and hypertension.

When your heart pumps blood through your body, this increases the pressure in your arteries. Normally, they respond by widening. High blood pressure happens when your arteries have hardened (due to aging, diseases or an unhealthy lifestyle). Hardened arteries do not relax sufficiently. As a result, your blood pressure increases.

In other words, your arteries remain relatively narrow even when you have a lot of blood flowing through them. Over the years, the increased pressure on your arteries damages them as well as your heart. Eventually, high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart attack.

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Symptoms of high blood pressure

Hypertension does not commonly cause symptoms. But some people can experience:

  • problems with their vision
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • dizziness

In rare cases blood pressure can reach dangerously high levels, causing more serious symptoms like:

  • confusion
  • severe headaches
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pains
  • fits

These signs and symptoms of hypertension usually occur when patients are experiencing a “crisis” or an “emergency” because their high blood pressure has reached dangerously high levels.

These signs are also common in people who suffer from a sudden increase in high blood pressure (accelerated hypertension). If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

UK hypertension statistics

Around the world, hypertension leads to more than 8 million early deaths each year. In the UK, there are about 62,000 people who die prematurely each year from strokes and heart attacks as a result of high blood pressure.

About 7 in 10 people in the UK have increased blood pressure. Nearly half of the population under 35 is also affected.

These hypertension statistics also show that about 30% of high blood pressure patients are not actually aware that they have the condition. This is because most of the time, high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms.

Medical signs of hypertension

The easiest way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to take your blood pressure reading.

Measuring your blood pressure is very simple and painless. It is carried out with a device called a sphygmomanometer (the inflatable cuff that your doctor puts around your arm). Within seconds, your doctor can measure your blood pressure.

The results work like this:

  • Anything between 120/80 (120 over 80) and 140/90 (140 over 90) is called the pre-hypertension stage. This often leads to hypertension
  • Between 140/90 and 160/100, you are in stage 1 hypertension
  • Between 160/100 and 180/110, you are in stage 2 hypertension
  • Above 180/110, you are in stage 3 hypertension (and you need immediate medical care)

People in stage 3 hypertension tend to suffer from secondary hypertension, which is a form of high blood pressure. This can be caused by:

  • kidney disease
  • hormonal disease, like gland tumour, or hyperthyroidism
  • lead poisoning
  • head injuries
  • pregnancy

Other signs of secondary hypertension include:

  • No effect from high blood pressure medication (even if it did work before)
  • Suddenly high blood pressure
  • No one in your family who has had hypertension before (family history of hypertension)

With either primary hypertension or secondary hypertension, it’s very important that you talk to a doctor for high blood pressure. This is the only way to understand what type of hypertension you’re suffering from and which treatment is best for you.

Early signs of high blood pressure

Patients who experience early signs of hypertension usually complain about dull headaches, short moments of lightheadedness, and getting nosebleeds more often than usual.

It’s quite rare for blood pressure to cause symptoms in the early stages of the condition.

Signs of stroke

High blood pressure can lead to dangerous emergencies like stroke. As soon as you notice one of these symptoms you must seek medical care immediately. Call 999 in the UK if you or anyone around you:

  • has issues speaking clearly and understanding someone else
  • cannot use their arms, e.g. not being able to raise them
  • suffers from facial weakness, e.g. drooping eyes or mouth, or not being able to smile

Medical diagnosis - detecting high blood pressure

Using the inflatable cuff (sphygmomanometer), your doctor will first look for obvious signs of high blood pressure by checking it at that point.

But even if you have a high reading of blood pressure at a particular time, that doesn’t mean you have the condition. It could be that stress or other factors have caused a temporary increase in your blood pressure.

From then on, your doctor will have to check your blood pressure regularly at different times to be able to diagnose you with hypertension.

Before then, or after that period, your GP might also run checks to see if your kidneys, heart, or other organs have suffered from your high blood pressure.

This can include doing ultrasound tests of the heart and kidneys as well as analysing a sample of your urine.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Last reviewed: 10 Jun 2019

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